How to help?

There was a line of cars leaving the grocery store parking lot and the clouds were heavy as the first drops fell.

She stood at the corner, a bright bandana pulled tightly over her head, jeans stained with dirt, a Giant reusable grocery bag and a torn black plastic bag in one hand, the other waiving wearily.

And though everyone had to stop there at the corner for the traffic, no one rolled down the window or asked where she was going.

The rain came down hard after she slipped into my front seat, just seconds later. We chatted briefly over the sound drumming on the car roof and the swish of the windshield wipers. She waived in the direction she wanted to go, mentioned a motel that way.

But at about the half-way point? Suddenly she wasn’t so sure where, exactly, she was trying to go.

Family in Ohio, friends somewhere else, but she wanted to spend the night in Indiana. Looking for a cheap hotel. None of the ones I mentioned were any good.

I left her on Philadelphia Street, at the corner across from the pharmacy, half a block down from the bus stop. Someone there would have ideas for her, I told her. The bus is cheap, there’s an actual manned station there, they can direct you.

She wandered down the sidewalk in the rain that was now a drizzle, cloth slippers on her feet.

I watched her go and felt oddly guilty.

I was the only one who stopped out of how many people who passed her that Friday afternoon? All busy, hurrying from work to home or to pick up children at after-school activities and no time for her.

But how can you help someone who doesn’t really know what she wants? How can you take someone to where they need to go if the destination changes every time you ask?

Do I take her home? And then, tomorrow, she still doesn’t know where she’s going or how to get there.

So I watched her shuffle down the wet sidewalk, and hoped someone else would know how to help.



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